The Underground Railroad
Synopsis: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. However, the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. In addition, Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Diandra Says: The Underground Railroad follows the story of a slave named Cora as she goes along a journey in search of freedom. Taking a unique approach, the author transforms the Underground Railroad into a literal railway system. This novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017.
Diandra's Past Staff Picks
Synopsis: A resident of one of LA's toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores. East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. However, someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police cannot or will not touch. They call him IQ. He is a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he is forced to take on clients that can pay. This time, it is a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far-reaching and dangerous the case becomes. Winner of the Anthony, Macavity, and Shamus Awards.
Donna Says: This urban mystery was a change of setting for me and I enjoyed it. This dialogue driven mystery has elements of a moving redemption story combined with a comedy caper. The first in a series, I added book two and book three to my “To Be Read” pile.
Donna's Past Staff Picks
Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered
Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark
Synopsis: The highly anticipated first book by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the #1 hit podcast My Favorite Murder! Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation. In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.
Elizabeth's Past Staff Picks
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
Synopsis: My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows. In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins. Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river. Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?
Megan Says: I love getting lost in a Kate Morton novel. They are always beautifully written, grand adventures. However, you must keep your wits about you because in this one she has five timelines going (or is it six?) that eventually crisscross and intersect at unexpected times revealing clues to the decades long mystery. You will not want to miss a moment!
Megan's Past Staff Picks
The Lady and The Laird
Synopsis: Lady Lucy MacMorlan may have forsworn men and marriage, but that doesn't mean she won't agree to profit from writing love letters for her brother's friends - letters that become increasingly racy as her fame grows. That is, until she deliberately ruins the betrothal of a notorious laird, Robert, Marquis of Methven. Past centuries of bloodshed have left the Methven and MacMorlan families bitter enemies and Robert is furious that Lady Lucy's letters have cost him the bride he needs so urgently to save his ancestral clan lands. Now he makes Lucy a shocking proposal; in return for his silence she must become his wife and provide him with the heir he needs. It is an inconvenient marriage of convenience but can the rugged laird and the bluestocking beauty fight against the power of love?
Nina Says: If you're looking for a quick summer read with a little more substance, this first book in Cornick's Scottish Brides series is perfect. The tragedies in Lucy and Robert's lives are handled with care, and are well-balanced with adventure, sweet seduction, and a hilarious women's salon you'll be talking about with your friends.
Nina's Past Staff Picks
Synopsis: When Chen’s parents are incinerated before his eyes by a blast of ball lightning, he devotes his life to cracking the secret of this mysterious natural phenomenon. His search takes him to stormy mountaintops, an experimental military weapons lab, and an old Soviet science station. The more he learns, the more he comes to realize that ball lightning is just the tip of an entirely new frontier. While Chen’s quest for answers gives purpose to his lonely life, it also pits him against soldiers and scientists with motives of their own: a beautiful army major with an obsession with dangerous weaponry, and a physicist who has no place for ethical considerations in his single-minded pursuit of knowledge. Ball Lightning, by award-winning Chinese science fiction author Cixin Liu, is a fast-paced story of what happens when the beauty of scientific inquiry runs up against the drive to harness new discoveries with no consideration of their possible consequences.
Randall Says: A standalone novel from the award-winning author of the Three-Body Trilogy explores the relationship between science and weapons development. Although the dialogue is sometimes stilted, Liu keeps the story moving with one discovery after another as the characters race to harness the mysterious, real-world phenomenon known as ball lightning. Give this one a try if you are a fan of Golden Age greats such Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.
Randall's Past Staff Picks
The Philosopher’s Flight
Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service a team of flying medics Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals. When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women. Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.
Swaneet Says: If you’re like me, you adore anything that reminds you of Harry Potter, and actively drink from that well of nostalgia as frequently as possible. The Philosopher’s Flight is conceptually different – taking place in 1918 United States and the wizards don’t have wands or cauldrons. Miller makes his own brand of magic, founded in science that feels just as real and familiar as spells and broomsticks. This carefully crafted adventure is only broken up by sophisticated spells and witty dialogue, a delightful escape from the summer heat.
Swaneet's Past Staff Picks